An Introduction to BDSM

Though BDSM has been around for ages, it’s only in the past couple of years since it’s popped up in the mainstream community. Until then, the BDSM community was known as an underground subculture; one that’s just losing its stigma. How did this happen? 

Well, actually, you can thank 50 Shades of Grey for bringing BDSM into the spotlight. Was the movie cheesy? Absolutely. But the one thing it did was start a conversation about sexual expression and kinky play, which is why you’re here. 

If you’re curious about dabbling into BDSM, you need to know the basics. BDSM is about sexual exploration, but it isn’t a free-for-all. 

Before holding a whip in your hand, going to play parties or tying your partner up to your bedpost, understanding the fundamentals will help you have a better first-time experience. 

In our guide, we’re going to tell you everything you need to know about the world of BDSM and get you ready for this new chapter of your sex life.

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What is BDSM?

It’s crucial we're on the same page when it comes to an understanding of what BDSM is. With BDSM, there’s no one answer because BDSM can be a couple of things. 

By definition, BDSM stands for bondage and discipline (B&D), dominance and submission (D&S), and sadism and masochism (S&M). When you hear people talking about BDSM, it’s not just about bondage discipline dominance; instead, it’s a mixture of different relationship dynamics. 

What do all these dynamics mean? That’s a good question. 

Dominant and Submissive

Regardless of the BDSM relationship you’re in, there will always be a dominant and a submissive person. Specifically, dominance-submission relationships are based on power dynamics. Now, both partners can switch back and forth from a dom to a sub; however, a BDSM relationship must have both. 

The dominant is someone who dominates the submissive. Female dominants are called Dommes, while male dominants are called Doms. The submissive partner consensually gives control to their dominant after agreeing to a set of rules created by both parties. Both male and female submissives are called subs. 

Bondage and Discipline

Bondage-discipline is the element of BDSM, which is when the submissive partner is either being trained or restrained by the dominant. Restraining the submissive is usually done with blindfolds, ropes, handcuffs, and bondage cages. 

Discipline is more focused on behavior modification. This means the submissive’s behavior is corrected; trained to suit the desires of the dominant. Punishment is a part of behavior modification and can include spanking, humiliation, etc. Bondage-discipline is more intense than dominance-submission and it isn’t for everyone.

Sadism and Masochism

This element of BDSM is a little trickier to define. Sadism and masochism is best described as the giving and receiving of pain. The sadist enjoys giving pain, while the masochist enjoys receiving pain.

The big difference between sadism and masochism and dominance and submission is that the latter is about control, whereas sadism and masochism is about pain. 

Though the element of submission and dominance is seen is sadism and masochism relationships, the infliction of controlled pain isn’t necessarily a part of dominant/submissive relationships. 

What part of BDSM fits you?

You know about the different relationships in BDSM, but that’s only the first step. Now, you need to figure out which element of BDSM suits you and your sex life. When it comes to choosing what role you’d like to take on, it takes time. 

Ideally, it’s best if you try both dominant and submissive roles out, feeling which one suits you best. 

When it comes to sex, the best way to find what you like is through experimentation. You may discover you enjoy being dominant, or even both. What’s important is that you find a role that speaks to you as that’s the role you’ll be exploring. 

If you’re a little nervous, which is entirely understandable, here are some of the benefits of BDSM.

Benefits of BDSM 

There are a lot of misconceptions about BDSM and the couples who follow this lifestyle. Some people assume that BDSM activities encourage promiscuous behavior and the deterioration of relationships in real life. 

But, in reality, it’s the opposite. This doesn’t mean having a vanilla sex life is harmful; everyone has their own preferences. It also doesn’t mean when you try BDSM it’s going to be your forte. 

However, it’s essential to be open-minded and know the benefits of sexual experimentation.  

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Improves Mental Health

In 2013, the International Society for Sexual Medicine published a study on the Psychological Characteristics of BDSM Practitioners. In the study, they focused on measuring the well-being of individuals in the BDSM community by looking at key personality traits. 

They found that individuals in BDSM relationships were more well-adjusted, open-minded, and secure in their personal relationships than those not in BDSM. In other words, people following a BDSM lifestyle have improved mental health and positive relationships. 

Reduces Psychological Stress

Let’s face it; we’re all stressed. But, those who engage in BDSM activities have reduced levels of psychological stress. In a series of studies by Northern Illinois University, it found those in the BDSM community enter an altered state of consciousness. 

They found decreased cortisol levels, which aid in preventing immunity issues, insulin resistance, and high blood pressure. 

Increases Connectedness and Intimacy

For most people, when it comes to BDSM, they assume this promotes cheating. But, BDSM activities encourage healthy and trusting relationships. Plus, a BDSM scene requires a high level of trust from both partners. 

If someone is going to bind you to your bedpost, you need to trust them. If not, the relationship isn’t going to work out, and your sex life won’t be pleasurable. 

Encourages Communication

We all need a helping hand when it comes to communicating with the people around us. But those who practice BDSM have higher levels of communication than those who do not practice it. 

This is because BDSM activities require you to communicate your sexual needs and desires with your partner. These aren’t easy conversations to have; however, those in the BDSM community learn to communicate their personal boundaries and limitations with their partner.

Decreases Anxiety

Anxiety is one of the most common mental health issues around the world, affecting everything from our jobs to sex life. Who would have thought BDSM could help reduce it? 

In 2014, a study presented at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology found that practicing S&M improves blood flow to the brain, giving the body a similar reaction to a “runner’s high.” The feeling of release caused by improved blood flow reduces anxiety. 

It’s good to know that besides sexual exploration, BDSM provides you with other health benefits as well. If you’re ready to give BDSM a try, then it’s about time you knew the steps to take. 

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8 Steps to Take as a BDSM Beginner

You know the benefits of BDSM, but how do you start? Before you are spanking your partner, there are a couple of things you need to do beforehand. These steps will help you create the best environment and will establish trust between you and your partner. 

1. Talk about it with your partner

You may want to try BDSM out, but have you talked about it with your partner? If you’re single, then your focus will be finding someone who wants to engage in BDSM with you. But if you’re already in a relationship, this isn’t something you can bring into the bedroom without their consent. 

It may not seem like an easy conversation to have with your partner, but it's the one you need to have. It’s a good idea to plan out what you’re going to say beforehand. Focus on expressing your sexual desires and see where they stand on trying out BDSM

Do you want to try a specific kinky sex act? Attend sex parties? Maybe they’re equally as curious, or maybe they’re not interested at all. Feel free to be open because this is a conversation you need to have. 

2. Honesty is a must

At times, it’s hard to express your feelings to your partner. But when it comes to BDSM, you need to express your emotions honestly. If not, your needs with not be met and you’ll do kinky sex activities that aren’t providing you with pleasure. 

BDSM isn’t meant to torture one another; it’s all focused on pleasure. Being honest with your partner will ensure both of you are getting the most out of the relationship. 

3. Discuss safe words

When it comes to BDSM, safewords are a must. If you meet people, whether they’re a dom or sub and they don’t feel they need a safe word - avoid them. This isn’t someone who knows or understands their own boundaries. 

You and your partner need to create a safe word that you both can use when a boundary is being crossed. 

For example, it’s a good idea to create safe words that are easy to remember for both of you. Red can mean “stop right now,” while yellow can mean “I like this, but be gentler.” Whoever your partner is you need a safe word. 

4. Start off small

You don’t need to have a bondage cage or ten different types of paddles at your disposal. You’re starting; you’re a beginner. 

Of course, there are many things you’d like to explore, and you’ll get a chance to do that. What’s important is to take things slow and move forward at a comfortable pace. So, start off small. 

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5. Focus on communication

When it comes to BDSM, it’s 40% physical and 60% communicative. BDSM relationships are founded on communication. 

Is there something you didn’t like? Is there something you’d like more of? Or an act you’re interested in exploring? 

Whatever question or suggestion you have on your mind, express it to your partner. This is how a BDSM relationship grows and flourishes - through communication. Before and after a session, sit down with your partner and casually chat about how you’re feeling and what you’re desiring. 

6. Don’t try new things once you’ve started a session

You may have thought of a great idea to incorporate into your session, but if you haven’t talked about it beforehand with your partner, then you can’t use/do it. This doesn’t mean your idea is completely off the table, but you cannot add anything new to a session once you’ve started. 

Though it’s tempting and your creative juices are flowing, you’ll have to save your ideas for the next session of kinky sex. Though you can always pull out of an agreement during a session, you can’t add things into a session that hasn't been agreed on. 

7. Always make time for aftercare

People tend to believe the most important thing about a BDSM relationship is the kinky sex and play. But, in reality, what people need to focus on is communication and aftercare. A BDSM scene can be very powerful and intense. Both your body and mind endure a range of chemical responses that can affect you. 

Whether you’re a dom or sub, you need to spend time after a session with your partner to go through the aftercare process. Whether it’s cuddling, caring for injuries, meditating, or talking with your partner, these are essential for a healthy BDSM relationship. 

8. Ask questions

The BDSM community is very connected and exists all over the world. You probably have a BDSM community in your city or town. Whether you join an online forum or meet people in real life who live the BDSM lifestyle, feel free to have them answer any questions or teach you specific acts. 

When trying something new, it’s always a good idea to meet people who are experienced in it. If you’re new, play parties can also be an excellent way to learn new acts and meet people in the community.

Who knew a BDSM scene would need so much preparation? But, by taking these steps, you’ll make sure each BDSM session is pleasurable and safe for both you and your partner. Now, if you’re wondering what activities you can do as a beginner, we have you covered. 

9 Things to Try If You’re New to BDSM

You know the steps you need to take before trying out BDSM, but do you know what to do? Don’t rely on 50 Shades of Grey to supply you with the activities you’re going to do because it’s not real life. So how do you start? Here are nine beginner BDSM activities you can do with your partner or at play parties.  

1. Spanking

Spanking is one of the most common fantasies, and if you’re a beginner, light spanking can be a lot of fun. It’s best to start by using your hands, and then as you gain experience, incorporate toys. When spanking, use the palm of your hand and hit directly onto the middle of the cheek.

2. Dirty Talk

But we’re talking about more than, “I love how you feel inside of me.” This form of dirty talk should have more aggression in it. Using words like “cock,” “fuck,” and “slut” are good starters. 

However, when it comes to name-calling, it needs to be agreed upon beforehand. Not everyone likes hearing themselves be called a “slut” or “whore.”

3. Hair Pulling

The best part about hair pulling is that you only need your hands. It’s one of the easiest activities you can incorporate into your session. Plus, it’s an excellent way to get into kinky play. Before hair pulling, make sure there are safe words established.

4. Light Bondage

You don’t need to use handcuffs or professional restraints. But, light bondage with a scarf is a great start. Scarves are naturally soft, so they don’t damage the skin. 

Make sure two fingers can fit between the skin and tie, you don’t want to cut off circulation. Light bondage can be incorporated in many scenes, whether it’s role play, discipline, kinky play, or using a sex toy. 

5. Biting

Biting is sensual and highly arousing. But it’s also a good introduction to kinky play. Of course, you shouldn’t bite your partner to the point where they're left with bite marks or are bleeding - they’re not a piece of steak. 

When biting, focus on their erogenous zones. If they’re blindfolded, this can be even more stimulating. Of course, talk about biting beforehand because not everyone likes it. 

6. Candle Wax

Whenever we think about candle wax, we assume it’s extremely painful, but looks can be deceiving. Instead, candle wax is an excellent introduction to controlled pain. Of course, do research beforehand on the types of candles you should use as some candles produce different amounts of heat than others. 

7. Role Play

You don’t need to put on a latex outfit on your first session. But, there are small role play acts you can incorporate to test the waters. Begging for sex or putting your partner in a submissive physical position are ways to try role-playing out. As you get more comfortable, you’ll be able to go deeper into kinky play. 

8. Sensation Play

Sensation play is fundamental for BDSM. Using a blindfold, you’ll be able to limit either you or your partner's sense of sight, heightening all other senses. While blindfolded, the other partner can use a feather or similar to tickle their partner. Blindfolding is a great beginner’s tool to ease into the dom/sub dynamics. 

9. Floggers

If you want to use a tool during your BDSM scene, floggers are a great start for beginners. Though floggers look intimidating, they don’t provide intense pain. Pair this with light bondage, and it can be highly pleasurable.

Now you know the moves, and for most of them, you don’t need any tools. But, if you’re interested in using more than just your hands, feel free to try out some of the equipment in this starter kit.

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BDSM Starter Kit

To give BDSM a try, you don’t really need anything. Your hands are more than enough. That being said, maybe you want to try out a couple of different techniques. 

But, most of the BDSM equipment out there is for intermediate or advanced individuals. Using equipment when you’re not properly trained can cause injury to your partner, and you don’t want that. So, we’re going to show you eight essentials you can use in your starter kit. 

Satin Blindfold

Sensory deprivation can heighten your sexual experience and is basic for BDSM play. If you or your partner is blindfolded, your senses are enhanced, which makes everything feel more intense. 

A simple satin blindfold can work wonders. Or, look around your house for a sleep mask or tie. What’s important is that you and your partner are comfortable. 

Latex Outfit

You don’t always need to wear a BDSM-specific outfit, but if you want to amp up your kinky play, then a latex outfit will do the trick. It adds more fantasy to the scene and can really arouse your partner. When it comes to popular fetishes, latex is one of them.  

Gag Ball

If you want to remove your sub's ability to speak, then use a gag ball. A gag ball is stuffed in the mouth and comes in a variety of sizes. You can also use a scarf to tie around the head as well. But, if you or your partner have jaw or mouth issues, refrain from using one. 

Rope

When it comes to bondage, the rope is one of your essential tools. You can head to any hardware store and find yourself soft rope. Avoid harsh textures as you don’t want it to cut your skin. Do some research on soft ropes that are body-safe. 

Dildos & Vibrators

Wand-style vibrators are a very popular sex toy in BDSM. They can be used during orgasm play and denial. Plus, they work for both vaginas and penises; so, this sex toy knocks two birds with one stone. 

You can also incorporate interactive sex toys into your BDSM activities. Control the vibration intensity or stroke speed and length of your partner with an app or your compatible device. 

Soft Handcuffs

If you have a pair of real cuffs, you’ll need to put some padding on them. Metal handcuffs are way too hard and will hurt your wrists. The best handcuffs to use are adjustable padded ones. The last thing you want is a trip to the hospital after using metal handcuffs.  

Padded Paddle

The beauty of paddles is that they offer a wide variety of sensations depending on the material of the paddle. But as a beginner, you want to start with a padded paddle. 

Soft paddles will let you and your partner ease into it, as they have a larger surface area than whips. A padded paddle will also give you time to get used to the feeling of it whether you’re the dom or sub. 

Flogger

There are a variety of floggers that all produce different sensations. But, the flogger you need is one that has a wrist loop, allowing better control. Plus, look for one with wide and soft falls as this will be gentle on the skin. If you get a flogger with thinner and stiffer falls, it’ll produce a stinging pain.

Though it may seem like you need to know a lot, once you take these tips and apply them to your sex life, it’s not that complicated. The most important thing is you talk to your partner from the beginning till the end, be open-minded, and make sure to have safe words. For the rest of it, enjoy and have fun!

WRITTEN BY

Natasha Ivanovic
Discover more of Natasha's Work

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